Information on Chicken Eyesight

By Mountain Peeps · Nov 27, 2014 · Updated Dec 23, 2014 · ·
  1. Mountain Peeps
    Information on Chicken Eyesight
    Chicken eyesight is amazing! They can see better in color than humans, can detect and see light and color shades better than humans, have three eyelids, can move each eye independently and have a 300 degree field of vision without turning their head.

    How Chickens See
    Chickens see the same way we do. Light comes in through the cornea and iris and then stimulates nerve endings in the retina at the back of the eyeball. One of the big differences, however, is that chickens have tetra-chromatic vision, while we have tri-chromatic. Chickens have four wavelengths (blue, red, green and ultraviolet light) while we can only have three (blue, red and green.)

    Chickens’ color vision is different from ours because they have colored filters mixed with nerve cells. They are like little drops of oil filtering out different wavelengths and act similarly to wearing yellow goggles when skiing.

    The fact that chickens see an extra sector of the light spectrum means that everything they see looks different from what we see. We have no description or idea for how much ultraviolet light is reflected from any substance. Chickens also have better motion sensing ability than we do. This is good to know if you use or plan on using artificial lights in your coop. These lights flicker on and off at a rate above what we can see. This is very annoying to your flock and may cause them to start bullying each other.

    Birds as well as other mammals have a structure called a fovea in their retinas. It basically is a small pit that, because of its shape, acts as an image enlarger. Chickens have two foveae, which act a little differently. One is for distant vision, and one is for close up. The interesting thing is that the up close one is oval and sideways and that’s why, when you approach your chicken, they will often bob their heads and tilt their heads sideways to get the image of you into a clearer view. Shockingly, chickens actually can’t really recognize flock members until they are within about 24 inches.

    Now don’t go drawing any conclusions that chickens are the best seeing creatures on the planet! Chickens, like humans and other animals, are blind when its completely dark. We need color and/or light to see so when there is no light we cannot see. Chickens, however, are blind when it is not completely dark. Regarding this issue, since chickens are like zombies at night, it makes them highly susceptible to predators. (See below for links on predators.)

    The Third Eyelid
    Sometimes when we take a picture of our chicken we see that the chicken’s eye is hazy-looking. At first glance this looks like a glitch in the camera but actually, this is the chicken’s third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. The nictitating membrane is positioned next to the eyeball, underneath its other two eyelids and works independently from them. It operates by sliding from the front to the back of the eye. It has two purposes: cleaning and protecting. When a chicken takes a dirt bath, you will see the nictitating membrane appear. This is because it is protecting the eye from dirt entry. Another time you may see it appear is when your flock is sleeping. They sometimes don’t close their eyes completely and thus, the nictitating membrane covers the eye instead.

    How Chickens Use Their Sight
    Chickens, obviously, use their eyes all day every day. They use their color vision to find bugs and other insects. They use their light vision to keep track of the day time and use it to help them know when to go back to the roost. They use their motion sensing ability to watch for predators, keep track of each other and, again, find food.

    Hens use their color vision to see which chicks are the healthiest. She uses her wavelengths of ultraviolet light to see the chicks’ feathers. If they have shiny feathers, this means that they are healthy and thus have a higher chance of survival.

    Before chicks hatch, they turn in the shell so that their right eye is next to the shell and their body covers the left eye. Once they hatch their right eye develops near-sightedness, which allows them to search for food, while the left eye develops far-sightedness, allowing them to search for predators from afar. That is why when a bird of prey flies overhead, chickens tilt their heads with their left eye up to the sky.

    Chickens have truly amazing, keen and sharp eyesight. We don't know everything about their eyes or how they work. But as long we continue to be fascinated by chickens, the longer we will continue to learn about them.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. Anonymous
    "Very well done..."
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Dec 18, 2018
    This explains chicken behaviorvin lots of things.
    Silkies rule Forever likes this.
    "Best article on chicken eyesight!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Dec 18, 2018
  3. Miss Lydia
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Dec 18, 2018
    Very interesting information
    Silkies rule Forever likes this.


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  1. ChicKat
  2. Ducksandchickens
  3. rdcowman
    Amazing article!;)
  4. chickfir
    Fascinating! Thank you for sharing!
  5. Cluckingham palace capers
    I must add, one of my 4 month old pullets has trouble taking a meal worm from my hand. She pecks frantically off to the side trying to pick it up, then of course misses out as one of the crafty ones manages to steal it. The only time she gets it is if I slowly tilt my hand and she’ll get it as it falls.
    1. cavemanrich
      Consider this. Chickens have good eyesight, does not mean ALL chickens . Compare to people,,, Some need glasses and some not. :)
  6. Cluckingham palace capers
    Fantastic! Well done.
  7. BarredRockMom
    How interesting, thank you!
      Ducksandchickens likes this.
  8. Dawnclucks22
    I think every picture I have of my RIR her third eyelid is closed. Without flash on, mind you. :p
  9. Rondack
    Wow, I didn't know chickens can see better than humans....
  10. BirdsInParadise
    The conclusion bird looks ready to give you an EARFUL!
  11. Sunshine Flock
    This is a great article and helps me better understand some rather curious behaviors with my rooster. Thank you!
      Mountain Peeps likes this.
  12. Barredrock360
    A chickens eyesight is 300 degrees without moving their head were as a humans is 180 degrees.
  13. rachel9947
    Great! I had suspected my chucks lost their sight as the light diminished, and that was how they told when it was time to go back to the shed to roost. If for any reason they are unable to get back there before dusk they then become 'paralysed' and just stand where they are so before now I have had to go and search for them with a torch when I find they are not in with the others. Because they cannot see they will not move, but they will talk back to you if you call them. In my experience, if they cannot find their way back to the shed they will make no attempt to make themselves safe by flying up into a tree or bush, but maybe the rare breeds I keep and breed are lacking in the survival instinct which has made the other breeds less rare! I have to say I don't think any of mine are any competition for the Eggheads! Doesn't matter. If you are healthy, full of energy and pleasure in life, your eggs and your feathers gleam with beauty and your voice resounds over the countryside, why would you need to be Einstein?
  14. Mountain Peeps
    Cavemanrich, if it gets super cold then you probably do need use lights. But try not to use them in spring and summer,
  15. cavemanrich
    During cold winter time my girls are inside a heated coop inside garage. I provide them 12 hours of artificial fluorescent light on an automatic timer. The window is slightly far and does not provide sufficient light. During warm weather they are in an outdoor coup with no added light. I don' t see any different behavior winter or summer. The slight bullying occurs during summer as well. Please advise me if I should do it any differently.
  16. tlb625
    Well ill be amazed! its like when you walk outside your chickens like "who this fool" then when you get 24 inches away they recognize you and be like "oh hey girl, i didn't notice you! Got any food?"
  17. Mountain Peeps
    You're very welcome!:)
  18. Lori Marie
    There is always something to learn about chickens. I really enjoy it. Thanks for the great article.
  19. cluckcluckgirl
    This is a great article! I learned so much fun information from it!
  20. Mountain Peeps
    Wow! I look away and then there are 22 comments! I'm glad this has helped you all!:)
  21. Mellow1
    Enjoyed the article! Thanks :)
  22. Riverchicken123
    Great article!! Very interesting and informative; I will have to look closer next time to see them using their left eye!!
  23. BYCoop
    Thanks! very interesting article.
  24. ChickyChickens
    Oh my....what a wonderful article! ! I was always so seeing how chickens could dustbin without getting the stuff in their eyes! ! LOVE THIS ARTICLE
  25. Kluk-Kluk
    Very informative. Thank you!
  26. patricium
    Anyone know of a US source for the high-frequency fluorescent lighting? I did some googling, but could only find European sellers.
  27. A05951
    Is it the nictitating membrane I see over the eyes when they groom or is it the regular eyelid? I also wondered about them using their left eye to look up at a predator. I saw all three of mine doing that one day and sure enough I looked up and saw a hawk soaring a great distance above us. Fascinating stuff. Thanks "Mountain Peeps."
  28. Palerydr
    Wow ! amazing how they can figure all this stuff out !
  29. Podnick
    fun to read!
  30. 3362
    Very interesting, always like to learn about their ways of living! Great insight [​IMG][​IMG]
  31. pernotcortez
    Very fascinating article. thank you.
  32. Smuch
    Thank you. Any information on chickens is interesting and enjoyable to know.
  33. farm316
    Great article
  34. Mountain Peeps
  35. MyPetNugget
    Wow very good job!!! These articles are so helpful!!
  36. N F C
    Very informative and well-written MP. This was interesting. Thank you!
  37. mymilliefleur
  38. TwoCrows
    What a great article! Very informative!!
  39. sunflour
    Great article, well organized and presented.
  40. sumi
    Very interesting!
  41. Chickenchick11
    Great article! [​IMG]

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